Socialist Worker

Syriza's Alexis Tsipras says 'only forward' as his support goes backward

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2469

Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras during a European Parliament debate on Greece in July this year

Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras during a European Parliament debate on Greece in July this year (Pic: European Parliament/flickr)


Days after Greece’s caretaker government was sworn in and set a date for new elections last week, the first of a new wave of cuts started to bite.

Pensioners’ monthly payments for September had been cut by 6 percent, as one of the conditions for a  bailout from Greece’s international creditors.

Organisations including the European Central Bank loaned Greece £17 billion in the first instalment last month—just in time for it to make a payment on existing debt to the European Central Bank.

The pension cut is just a fraction of the austerity measures promised in return. Many more attacks are on their way.

And the damage to left wing party Syriza has already been severe.

In the first opinion polls in months, Syriza’s lead over the Tory party New Democracy collapsed from between 12 and 15 points to between 1.5 and 2.5 points.

One poll suggested that 72 percent of people viewed the Syriza-coalition government negatively, compared to just 22 percent who saw it positively.

But since stepping down for new elections, prime minister Alexis Tsipras has found support from a less likely direction. 

New Democracy’s new interim leader Evangelos Meimarakis said he’d be willing to join a coalition government with him.

Courage

The election is set to take place on Sunday 20 September—the third major national vote called at short notice in less than a year. Tsipras insisted that voters would reward Syriza because it “showed the courage and will to stand firm”. But his own party members were leaving in droves.

Former speaker of parliament Zoi Konstantopoulou became the latest leading figure to announce she would stand in the elections alongside Popular Unity, a split to Syriza’s left. 

It already counted many MPs, central committee members and even ministers.

Even the party’s 53 Group faction, considered much closer to the leadership, slammed Tsipras’ U-turn on the bailout in a new conference.

And an annual demonstration in Thessalonica to take place this Saturday, was given extra significance after a violent police attack on environmental protesters in the region.

Campaigners at Skouries in the Halkidiki peninsula are fighting a massive and environmentally devastating gold mine. There have been protests all over Greece in their support—particularly in nearby Thessalonica, Greece’s second city.

In a defensive speech to a party conference, Tsipras refused to be deterred. 

“Whoever wants to mourn, can mourn,” he said. “Whoever wants to escape has the right to escape. We are moving forward, only forward.”

“Only forward” is to be Syriza’s slogan for the election.

But if he looked back at all, Tsipras would see that his party only got its chance after previous governments were broken by resistance to their austerity. His own risks becoming the latest.


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